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FG going to need a poll to sort out contenders for their election ticket



Date Published: {J}

One of the constituencies which will stick out like a sore thumb in Fine Gael plans for the next General Election will be Galway West – where Enda Kenny will be insisting on the candidates delivering a second Dail seat, as part of Fine Gael plans to lead the next government.

Last time I spoke to him briefly on the issue, Kenny didn’t want to discuss it in detail, but he made it quite clear that Galway West – which has returned only one seat out of five in the past 28 years – would be expected to bring in a second Fine Gael Dail Deputy.

Just for the moment, it appears there won’t be any particular hurry now on sorting out the Fine Gael ticket in Galway West …… well, things have gone very quiet indeed in the weeks since the Budget, and the consensus appears to be that, unless there is some very unexpected development, then this line-up of Fianna Fail, the Green Party, with the support of a key number of Independents, could be in power for the long haul …. right up to 2012, if they can possibly manage it.

There has been an extraordinary Fine Gael quiet since the Budget – we can only surmise that FG, who would have agreed with the overall spending cuts figure of €4billion, want to ‘keep the head down’ so that Fianna Fail will take the full brunt of cuts in areas like public salaries, child allowances, carer allowances, payments to the blind. In other words, that FF pay the price for the economic catastrophe which befell the country during their watch.

However, I’ve been writing this column since 1977 and one of the things I have learnt is, ‘don’t write off Fianna Fail.’ Could they yet escape the anger, or will it simmer on against them?

What Fianna Fail and the Green Party will be hoping is that, as time passes – and if the economy were to start to improve – FF and The Greens might just see some rebound in their dreadful poll ratings.

Certainly, they will want to get back from the awful pasting they took in the Local and the European Elections last June – when the Fianna Fail vote fell 10% to 25%, a level of support at which seats in both Galway West (Eamon O Cuiv and Frank Fahey) and Galway East (Noel Treacy and Michael Kitt), could be potentially vulnerable.

But, while Fine Gael can now boast that they are the biggest party in the country – 338 local councillors to 213 for FF – Galway West is a major contradiction of that trend. In the 2007 General Election, FG only got 20 per cent of the first preferences. It was an increase of over 3%, but with a level of support like that, Enda Kenny could kiss goodbye to his hopes of gaining a seat in Galway.

The last time FG won two seats out of five in Galway West, Garret FitzGerald was leading the party, John Donnellan and Fintan Coogan were the FG front runners, and they won two seats with 34% of the first preferences in 1982.

By 1987, everything had changed. The outgoing FG-Labour Government which had been led by Garret FitzGerald, was unpopular …… and there had been a sea change in Galway West where Bobby Molloy had left FF to join the Progressive Democrats. Not alone did Molloy take a hunk of the FF vote with him, he also sliced into the FG vote on the basis of his personal popularity. The FG vote fell over 16% to 18.2% and has never really recovered from there in the intervening 28 years.

West Galway is unusually competitive in that there are TDs from FF, FG, Labour and an Independent (Noel Grealish – former PD) returned. But a performance such as that of 2007, would be next to worthless to Enda Kenny in the next General Election. In a five-seater constituency, a quota is just over 16%, so to be even in the hunt for that second seat, Fine Gael would need at 30% to be in with a shout.


For more read page 14 of this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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